Angolan Film Grabs Attention at Film Festival

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The power of the creative economy to transform lives, livelihoods – and perceptions – should never be underestimated. Creativity can transform the image of places and situations often seen in a negative light. A film from Angola is shining a light on the country’s music scene and showing the vitality of the nation in the wake of a long-running civil war.

Angola’s vicious civil war ran from 1975 to 2002 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angolan_Civil_War) and the country is still recovering from the economic and social damage wreaked by the conflict.

The film Death Metal Angola (deathmetalangola.com) was a hit of the recent Dubai International Film Festival (dubaifilmfest.com/en/), an annual film showcase running every December in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Middle East.

Death Metal Angola illustrates the power of film storytelling to draw attention to a country and spark interest in its culture and challenges.

The film focuses on the hidden world of heavy metal music (of which death metal is a sub-genre) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_metal_music) in Angola – but it was not supposed to be about heavy metal music at all.

The story starts with American director Jeremy Xido (http://jeremyxido.com/). Originally asked to do a film on immigration, Xido happened upon a railway line in Angola being built by Chinese workers. The railway line was being built in the town of Huambo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huambo) in central Angola.

“There’s only one cafe in Huambo where you can get a decent cup of coffee,” he told the UAE’s The National news website. “Everyone interested in coffee is there: expats, military guys, Lebanese businessmen, people from all over the place.”

Hanging out in the café, he met a young man, Wilker Flores, who said he was a musician.

“He said he played death metal, and I just thought: ‘I have to hear this.'”

Flores’ partner, Sonia Ferreira, runs an orphanage and Wilker invited Xido to come hear him play.

“It was in this really poor neighbourhood with no electricity, and there’s Wilker with an amplifier and guitar and stolen electricity from this wire. We lit him with the headlights from an SUV (sport utility vehicle) and he proceeded to play this impromptu death metal concert in the middle of an orphanage with kids running around. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

“

Xido then discovered that Ferreira and Flores were organizing the country’s first heavy metal music concert. While they were planning the concert, Xido was inspired to switch to making the film Death Metal Angola.

The documentary took about six weeks to film. Filming took place around Huambu, Benguela and Angola’s booming capital, Luanda. It is a mix of interviews with musicians, including some from the death metal and thrash metal scenes.

The origins of this music scene in Angola reaches back to the country’s former colonial ruler, Portugal, a country where heavy metal rock music has a strong fan base.

Xido found the love for metal music was a by-product of the civil war years. “During the war, a lot of the young guys – if they had the opportunity – would go to Portugal to study to get away from armed service, and they were often exposed to contemporary rock.”

There are local links, too. “Wilker says that rock is actually African in its roots, and says that a lot of the rhythms you’ll find in the countryside are the rhythms you’ll find in death metal.”

“I think a lot of it has to do with looking back at the war and the sort of unfilled promises of post-war,” said Xido, who adds that the lyrics have very political messages and those involved are highly intellectual.

“A lot of these guys are working in banks or doing IT. There’s a young guy who is considered to have the best metal growl. He wanted to come to Dubai, but is studying electronics and has exams.”

Filmmaking is a vibrant part of the global creative economy. According to a 2011 UIS (UNESCO Institute for Statistics) survey, two countries in the global South lead the world in filmmaking. India remains the world’s leading film producer, and Nigeria, with its prolific home video market, continues to hold second place ahead of the United States.

According to the Creative Economy Report 2010, the creative economy is “A new development paradigm” linking the economy and culture, embracing economic, cultural, technological and social aspects of development at both the macro and micro levels.

“Central to the new paradigm is the fact that creativity, knowledge and access to information are increasingly recognized as powerful engines driving economic growth and promoting development in a globalizing world,” the report says.

And as for Xido, making the film has opened his ears to heavy metal music, which he says was not what he listened to growing up.

“Because of these guys I started listening to Pantera and Sepultura and I really got into it. Metal on headphones in New York is fantastic. I love the way they like it in Angola, where it’s a huge expression of joy.”

But what about the other film, the one about immigration and the railway? “It’s still in production,” Xido said.

Resources

1) UNESCO Institute for Statistics: A treasure trove of data and analysis on the impact of culture. Website: http://www.uis.unesco.org/Culture/Pages/movie-statistics.aspx

2) How to Make a Movie: Tips on movie-making in 23 steps with pictures. Website: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Movie

3) How to Make a Video: The 3-step process of making a video. Website: http://www.mediacollege.com/video/tutorial/

4) Coming soon … how to make the perfect movie trailer: If you want to get your movie noticed, you need an eye-catching trailer. Just follow these simple rules. Website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/jun/16/how-to-make-a-movie-trailer

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London Edit

31 July 2013

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